I really can't imagine the nightmares offensive linemen have before they line up against Aaron Donald.
Donald is the type of pass rusher where, even if you do everything right as a blocker, he can still embarrass you in front of your mama as well as the millions tuning in nationwide. His incredible combination of speed, quickness, technique, and strength is damn near unheard of.
How do you even try to block a guy who can literally do it all — power rushes, speed rushes, inside moves.
If there's an efficient way to beat a blocker and get to the quarterback, you can best believe Donald is probably already pretty good at it. He's been so dominant week in and week out that nowadays when I see a team try to single block Donald it’s almost expected he'll win that matchup.
I also tend to question WTF that offensive coordinator was smoking.
When a guard realizes the he is going to have to block Donald all by himself, I imagine him hearing Dennis Leary from that that old Nike commercial in his head right before the snap.
He is so damn quick and coordinated with his hands and feet that even with all-22 I frequently have to slow it down to really appreciate he’s doing. And even when I do see it, sometimes I can hardly believe my eyes.
Donald has been a monster since he first got to the league, just as I predicted he would be. Until this season the Rams, didn't have much to show for his stellar play. This year, I wasn't sure how Donald would hold up in the new 3-4 defense that Wade Phillips brought to the team, even one that doesn't rely heavily on two-gapping.
I shouldn't have been worried at all. There are some players players who are so good, it doesn’t matter what scheme you play them in.
Donald definitely fits that description.
Heading into Sunday's game against the Seahawks, the Rams had already won at least nine games for the first time since 2003(!). Their turnaround on offense has gotten a lot of the attention and credit for their success this season, but Donald's performance has had a lot to do with it too.
You can call it coincidence if you want, but before Sunday the Rams hadn't lost a single game this season when Donald had at least one sack (7-0).
On the flip side, they've only won one game this season when he didn't have any sacks after he ended his holdout in Week 2 (1-4).
It was imperative for Donald to have a big day if the Rams were going to beat Seattle.
This was going to be the first time the Rams faced the Seahawks this late in the season since Donald got to the league where both teams had so much on the line.
The key to beating the Seahawks is finding a way to neutralize Russell Wilson. What L.A. really needed was for Donald to go Super Saiyan on that ass.
And, oh boy, did he!
Donald didn't waste any time making his presence felt
On the Seahawks' second drive they faced a third-and-12 at their own 23-yard line. Donald lined up as the left three-technique on right guard Ethan Pocic's outside shoulder. Connor Barwin was lined up outside of him as the left defensive end/outside linebacker on the outside shoulder of left tackle Germain Ifedi.
Donald charged off the ball like a blue, gold, and white Ferrari and easily chopped right guard Pocic's outside arm down with his inside hand when Pocic tried to punch. As he was doing this, Donald also turned his hips toward the quarterback and stepped across with his inside foot to gain upfield leverage on Pocic. Donald went from the chop right to a rip with his inside under Pocic's outside arm. Pocic was pretty done at that point, but for Ifedi using his inside arm to help out Pocic and stiff arm Donald in the face.
Donald and Barwin, who was lined up in a wide five, were actually running a TEX game. Barwin took four hard steps upfield to try to keep Ifedi's attention, but because most guards need help with Donald, Ifedi reflexively stuck his hand out just in case.
It didn't matter because Donald fought right through Ifedi's hand in his face, but I want to remind you that normally pass rush games are set up to get two defensive linemen on one offensive lineman and force that offensive lineman to make a choice; either keep blocking the guy you started off blocking and hope the free guy trips, or try to come off of and block the looper and hope someone else picks up the guy they were initially blocking. Doesn't really matter who he chooses, though, because when it’s run right, the guy they don't choose should always be free to the quarterback.
What you hardly ever see is the guy getting double teamed still get to the quarterback before the unblocked guy, but that is exactly what happened here.
Even after Ifedi turned to help with Donald after he saw Barwin loop inside, Donald was still able to beat Pocic by powering through Pocic's outside with his rip move. Donald got to Wilson first to take him down for a loss of eight yards, even though Barwin was literally untouched on the play.
It was going to be that kind of day for Seattle.
Donald is such a beast as a pass rusher, he can't help but make the guys around him better
A play he made, but technically didn't make, perfectly illustrates that.
Seattle had a second-and-20 at their own 10-yard line. Donald was again lined up as the left three-technique on Pocic's outside shoulder. On the snap, Donald took two hard steps upfield and then came back inside to the A gap with a jab ole.
What differentiates Donald's jab ole from most of his fellow interior linemen is that he's able to gain ground upfield with his footwork when he goes inside, instead of just moving laterally.
Because of this and his uncanny quickness for a guy his size, Donald was able to easily beat Pocic with a quick arm over, and he was upfield so fast that when center Justin Britt tried to slide over to help, Donald already had him beat.
Donald was able to split Pocic and Britt and power through both of them for a clean win, but when Wilson saw him coming he decided he best get while the getting was good.
Donald's defensive linemates, nose tackle Michael Brockers and defensive end Matt Longacre, both had Christmas come early as Donald's pressure forced Wilson to step up right into their waiting arms.
There isn't a stat for what Donald did on that play (maybe there should be), but there's no denying he helped Brockers and Longacre get that sack.
There aren't many defensive tackles in the league now, or maybe ever, who could win so cleanly against a center who slides in their direction the way Donald did on that play. That kid is special!
And he was far from finished.
Donald’s coldest move (sorry, Luke Joekel)
With 2:35 left in the first quarter the Seahawks were facing third-and-8 from midfield. This time Donald was actually lined up as the right three-technique on the outside shoulder of left guard Luke Joekel.
What Donald did to Joekel on this play should be illegal in all 50 states. You really don't get how cold of a move it was until you see it slowed down from the end zone angle.
First, Donald initially came off the ball with two hard steps upfield like he was going with a speed rush. Then, he re-directed and went right at Joekel off that second step as if he was going to try to run Joekel right over.
Instead of actually bullrushing Joekel, Donald took a step inside and mushed Joekel in his face (they didn't call it, so it’s legal) with his inside hand. Somehow, Donald was able to simultaneously use his outside hand to engage Joekel's outside wrist and keep Joekel from getting his outside hand on him.
Yes, that's a mouthful, but I'm not done.
When an offensive linemen gets pushed they tend to want to meet force with force; Donald was betting on that. When Joekel tried to push back against Donald mushing him in the face, Donald planted his feet, violently clubbed Joekel's outside shoulder with his outside hand, stepped back outside by crossing over with his inside foot, stopped mushing Joekel in the face with his inside hand and instead used it for an arm over.
All in the blink of an eye ...
Make it so bad, Britt was trying to slide over to help Joekel out, but Donald ended the move with such a flourish that Joekel ended up falling right into Britt.
Make it so bad part two, Donald didn't even get a sack on the play. He did end up with a pressure forcing Wilson to miss a pretty wide open Paul Richardson on a slant, however.
Sack or pressure, it was an impressive ass play regardless. And if you blinked you probably missed it.
Delaying the inevitable
On his second sack of the afternoon, Donald was once again lined up as the right three-technique across from Joekel.
This time it was Joekel's turn to try to block Donald's jab ole inside move, and it didn't go any better than it had with Pocic. Britt was able to slide over this time and bump Donald out just enough to give Wilson a lane to scramble, but it only delayed the inevitable.
Wilson escaped Barwin's clutches, and he tried to reverse back out to his right, oblivious to the fact that Donald was over there. Donald tracked Wilson down and slung him around so hard that he forced a fumble that rolled so far it went it went out of bounds. The Seahawks ended up with a 16-yard loss on the play.
You have to see it to believe it
With the Rams already up 34-0 at halftime, Donald didn't play much in the second half. But he did have one big play left in him before he left the game.
Seattle had a first-and-10 from their own 31-yard line. I'm sure Joekel was tired of seeing him at this point, but there Donald was lined up across from him again as the right three-technique.
This was another example of a play where you really needed the end zone view slowed down to see exactly how Donald beat Joekel. Donald came off and turned his hips to the QB almost immediately, and he looked as if he was going to try to swipe Joekel's punch attempt.
However, instead of Donald just knocking Joekel's wrist to the side the way someone normally would with a swiper move, Donald grabbed Joekel's wrists.
I am not sure what words I could used to accurately describe how hard it is to grab an offensive lineman's wrists like that when they are trying to punch you in your chest, but just know plenty of your favorite defensive linemen couldn't do it consistently.
You really have to focus to catch it, because Donald didn't hold Joekel's wrists for long. He just used Joekel's wrist as kind of like handle bars to push Joekel back for a step or two. Once he got Joekel going backwards Donald knew he would once again try to fight force with force. The second Joekel dug in was the moment Donald transitioned into a rip move.
Joekel was, at that moment, the finest of barbecue chicken.
Even though Joekel damn near had Donald in a rear naked choke after Donald's rip move and even though the refs didn't call it, Donald simply was not going to be denied on that play. He powered right on through Joekel's li’l clothesline attempt, turned a tight corner, and took Wilson once again, this time for a loss of 6 yards.
A couple weeks back I talked about DeMarcus Lawrence having training tape technique. You can watch all the Donald film that you want, but there is some shit he does that most people won't ever be able to replicate. Yes, I am including among "most people" some of your favorite pass rushers.
Point to the lie.
The great philosopher Ric Flair once said, "To be the man, you gotta beat the man. WOOOOOOOOO!"
Truer words have never been spoken.
The Rams needed to beat the Seahawks on Sunday to prove to themselves that they really are legit this season, especially after losing in Week 5.
With the division crown, playoff seeding, and plain old bragging rights on the line, Donald elevated his game and set Seattle's offensive game plan on fire with a blowtorch. With three sacks against Seattle on Sunday, Donald now has 11 on the season, matching his career high from 2015. He added a caused fumble, two pressures, and two tackles in just three quarters to help lead his team to victory.
If he isn't on your short list for Defensive Player of the Year, you should definitely fix that. For now, it is my pleasure to award him Hoss Of The Week honors for Week 15 of the NFL season.